What are Hashtags (#) and How to Use Them on Social Media

Once upon a time, the ‘#’ was a simple pound sign or hash mark. But then the social blue bird flew onto the scene and turned this mundane symbol into an online sensation. Today, whether you are on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or any other social media channels, you simply cannot escape the all encompassing presence of the #hashtag. But what exactly is a hashtag? In case you always wondered but were too afraid to ask, we’ve come up with a clear and concise explanation of everything you need to know about this Internet phenomenon.

#lovelabpuppies

Not only that: once you’ve mastered the “what”, you’ll probably want to know “how” to use hashtags. Strap in because this article will help all levels of social media addicts. If you’re relatively new to the game, we understand that at first glance, hashtags might seem confusing. But once you understand them better, you will see that they are a powerful tool to grow your social impact and engage your audience – oh, and did we mention: all for the cost of $0.00? If you’re more advanced, you might want to know how to optimize your hashtags, in order to raise brand awareness and get more customers.

As a long time user and fan of WIX, the great advice below, with links left in, is so good I wanted to share with my blog readers. #bennettaboutmarketing  #greatPRadvice  #marketingnews  #lovelabpuppies

Here is a complete guide on  hashtags and how to use them efficiently:

What is a hashtag?

With thousands of images published every minute on all social platforms, it can be hard to stand out amongst the crowd. The possibility for your post to be seen isn’t promising, unless they are one of your followers. That’s where hashtags come into play. A hashtag is a keyword or phrase preceded by the hash symbol (#), written within a post or comment to highlight it and facilitate a search for it. Essentially, by including hash marks in your post; it can be indexed by the social network so that it can be discoverable to everyone, even if they’re not your followers or fans. For example, if your company has to do with extreme sports you can add the #bucketlist to your Instagram posts to snag those people with a passion for adventure and fun.

Why should you use hashtags?

Thanks to hashtags, your posts aren’t limited to just your followers. By adding one of these bad boys, your content will be accessible to all other users interested in similar topics who search for your hashtag. Choosing the right hashtag can greatly broaden the reach of your social media posts to thousands of potential followers, fans or customers. For example, if you have a healthy juice bar, it can be tempting to go for the obvious #fruit, but beware! With over a million posts and growing the chances of being seen are as slim as a banana peel. Now if you throw on a more specific tag like #drinkyourveggies, your looking at better odds. This is all the more relevant with the recent update on Instagram, where you can now follow specific hashtags just like you would friends or companies. So it goes without saying: make sure you don’t just slap # on any word.

Three powerful families of hashtags to use on social media

Content hashtags: If you are totally new to hashtags, first consider using some that directly relate to your product, service, market or area of expertise. We can call them the ‘content hashtags’ because they relate to the content that your content would be naturally associated with. As you can imagine, they will greatly expose your brand to potential customers on those social media platforms who weren’t previously familiar with your brand. For instance, at Wix we primarily use content hashtags related to websites – such as #SEO, #Illustration, #Photography or #SMB.

Trending hashtags: Another great way to boost your brand’s visibility is using existing hashtags that have grown popular among millions of users, also known as ‘trending hashtags’. Watch out: before you add the ‘#’ symbol to a trending topic, remember to first ask yourself whether your social media posts are adding value to the existing conversation. Value can be interpreted in many ways: a unique piece of information, an original look or opinion at what’s is going on, or simply a funny statement or image. If your post does not add any value, it is highly likely to be ignored and lost in the plethora of posts. If however your post is informative, funny or viral, it will get re-shared by fellow users ultimately increasing awareness of your brand. Generally, trending hashtags are a lot of fun! It can range from holidays to random spur of the moment games like the Tweet below:

Brand-specific hashtags: Sometimes, the problem with using generic or popular hashtags is that your posts might be lost in the noise of hundreds of messages using the same hashtags. Hence, it is a good idea to create your own dedicated ‘brand-specific hashtags’. These can be used for general branding, promotions, events, contests or other marketing campaigns. The key to creating an effective brand-specific hashtag is to ensure that there is no one else using the same hashtag. It has to be unique and memorable. For general branding, use a short motto or tagline. When creating marketing campaign-specific hashtags, make sure to give users a compelling incentive to use them. For example, you could get users to post with a campaign-specific hashtag to stand a chance to get discounts or win prizes. In return, your brand stands to benefit from major viral marketing publicity. A brand-specific hashtag that we hold very near and dear to our hearts is #WixPhotography, which we use on all of our relevant social media platforms – like Facebook.

Brand-specific hashtags

How to use hashtags wisely?

To create a hashtag, all you need to do is include a ‘#’ and a relevant keyword or phrase. This, you already knew. But what you didn’t know is that not all hashtags are born equal. In fact, they are only powerful when handpicked and used wisely. Here are two crucial general tips that apply to all social media and businesses:

Keep it short: To save everyone the headache, don’t squish too many words into one hashtag. Nothing turns people off more than overly lengthy hashtags – #YouDontWantToTryThisAtHome.

Don’t overuse: Another thing you want to avoid is writing your entire caption with one hashtag per word. #Because #its #not #really #fun #to #read #like #this #is #it? The number of hashtags you can allow per post depends on each channel. But as a general rule of thumb, only put an hashtag next to word that are really significant.

Think strategically: This applies to the ‘content hashtags’. By definition, since you won’t have created them, they are probably used by other brands. Which is a good thing, since people will look after this hashtag. But at the same time, when a hashtag is overcrowded, you can be sure that your content will go unnoticed. So it’s highly recommended to mix content hashtags with a high volume, with other hashtags that are more specific. For example, let’s say you have a restaurant and you want to post a picture of your latest gnocchi dish on Instagram. #Food is an obvious choice, but with over 258 millions posts using it, you have no chance to stand out. Try and find more ‘niche’ hashtags, such as #gnocchi or #gnocchiday. As always, a little research will go a long way. Hashtagify is a good place to start. And of course, nothing will beat the good old trial and error: experiment, learn and have fun as you go!

What are the best hashtag practices for each social media

Twitter

How many hashtags per postResearch shows that the optimal amount of hashtags is two. Over that, the tweets have a significant drop in engagement.
How to find the best hashtags around: It’s important to make sure people are engaging with the hashtags you use. A great place to start is Hashtagify, it allows you to check the popularity and recent popularity to know if your hashtag is relevant.
Where to place them: While you are more limited on Twitter with the amount of #’s you are less confined as to where they should go. It can be used at the end of a Tweet or incorporated as part of the sentence.

Instagram

How many hashtags per post: The more hashtags you use, the more engagement you see – up until a certain point. After about 10 hashtags, you risk losing out on some of that engagement.
How to find the best hashtags around: Head over to the search box and check what your audience, competitors, and industry leaders are already using. Pay attention to the number of posts, and how many likes the first images received.
Where to place them: In order to keep everything organized and neat, it’s best to put your hashtags at the end of your caption preferably separated by either dots or asterisks. If you’re a neat freak, you can also add your hashtags in a comment to your post.

Facebook

Believe it or not, hashtags are not important on Facebook. We recommend limiting the number of hashtags to a minimum. Indeed, concise captions tend to perform better on this platform. Of course, using your ‘brand-specific hashtags’ won’t hurt.

LinkedIn and G+

Same as for Facebook: hashtags can be added, but they don’t really have an effect on your post.

Pinterest

How many hashtags per post: Pinterest themselves recommend you add no more than 20 hashtags per Pin.
Where to place them: Hashtags only work within the Pins’ descriptions.

Ready to make an impact online? It all starts with a stunning website from Wix!

Tali Marks
By Tali Marks
Community and Social Media Manager, Wix About the Wix Blog

Do You Know Your Lemons? … and other #creative hashtag campaigns

Thank you Sprout Social for this well written article about engaging your customers through creative hashtag campaigns. #lovethis!

The hashtag frenzy has been an important element in the rise of social media. It’s hard to achieve true brand awareness without at least one or two hashtags in your repertoire.

Not only does the right hashtag help you to connect with targeted audiences on social media, but a branded hashtag can also help give life to your digital identity, providing additional reach, impact and personality.

With approximately 81% of Americans using social media in 2018, companies can’t afford to overlook one of the most important resources in social.

But it’s not always as easy as it looks to craft, create and strategize your hashtag campaign. But don’t worry–we have you covered. To help inspire you for your next hashtag campaign, let’s look at eight creative campaigns in the last year or so:

1. #KnowYourLemons: Worldwide Breast Cancer

Often the best branded campaigns on social media are those with an important and meaningful purpose. In 2017, the Worldwide Breast Cancer organization launched its hashtag campaign #KnowYourLemons to convince women to check their breasts for signs of cancer more frequently.

The catchy concept went viral almost instantly. It was a fun and interesting way to give women the important information they needed to spot the lesser-known symptoms of cancer. The charity launched its own Facebook member’s page where people could take part in conversations about the subject. This extra step made the experience more engaging for everyone involved.

#KnowYourLemons Infographic

What We Loved About It:

The creativity in this hashtag campaign was a fantastic way to raise awareness for an important cause. However, the most exciting element of the strategy was that it made crucial information accessible to everyone. You didn’t need a doctorate or a high literacy level to learn more about breast cancer.

Using a light-hearted concept to convey a message about a serious subject, the Worldwide Breast Cancer group exceeded their Just Giving fundraising target by 317%.

2. #TeamVisa: Visa

At the beginning of 2018, Visa jumped on the Olympic fever bandwagon for the winter games. Since 2000, Visa has earned a reputation for accepting athletes around the globe into its “Team Visa” program. The program provides people with the resources they need to achieve their sporting ambitions. Ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics, Visa launched a special campaign to demonstrate how athletes can get involved with #TeamVisa.

The great thing about Visa’s campaign is that it takes advantage of a trending topic to draw attention to an existing product. The company teamed up with influencers who were sure to get plenty of attention around the winter games. Everyone from Billy Morgan to Elise Christie got involved.

3. #BrandBowl: Twitter

While there are 330 million monthly active users on Twitter, some experts suggest this social media platform isn’t seeing as much growth as its competitors. Fortunately, the channel decided to tackle this problem with a hashtag campaign of their own at the beginning of 2018.

Twitter announced at the end of January they would launch their #BrandBowl campaign alongside the Super Bowl. This was perfect timing to be involved with one of the most talked-about events on social media. The #BrandBowl campaign was a social contest designed to award companies for different achievements, like:

  • The brand with the highest number of tweets
  • The brand with the highest tweet per minute score
  • The brand with the most retweets

View image on Twitter

What We Loved About It:

To help improve engagement, Twitter combined the excitement of a social media contest with the appeal of an important trending topic. #BrandBowl gamified the concept of talking about companies, to ensure that everyone was chatting on Twitter during one of the most important sporting events of the year.

4. #ORIGINALis: Adidas

2017 was a highly successful year for Adidas. The company managed to cement its position as both a fashion icon and thought leader with its #ORIGINALis hashtag campaign. The promotion centered around the new Adidas Originals line, and asked people to re-think the concept of being unique.

Adidas partnered with some of the biggest names in the hip-hop world, including Stormzy, Snoop Dogg and ASAP Ferg to promote their new lineup. The brand even created a video to help link its products back to the idea of hip-hop culture.

What We Loved About It:

The first thing that makes the #ORIGINALis hashtag campaign so effective is it’s targeted appeal to Adidas fans. On top of that, in a world where influencer marketing is one of the best ways to generate trust for a company, Adidas managed to partner with some of the most influential figures in the hip-hop environment.

Overall, Adidas just goes to show that the best brand hashtags can help to establish credibility for a company and elevate its position in any marketplace.

5. #WeAccept: Airbnb

Sometimes the best brand hashtags are the simplest. And that’s certainly the case with Airbnb’s campaign from 2017 revolving around the hashtag #WeAccept. This popular branded hashtag was a great way for the travel giant to share the universal nature of their company while showing their support for a crucial ethical issue.

The campaign began with an inspirational video posted on the Airbnb branded social media feed. It continued with a selection of emotional photos delivered by people from different backgrounds and places around the world.

What We Loved About It:

It’s not always easy to produce an effective political campaign. This is particularly true on social media where everyone has an opinion that they’re ready to share. Fortunately, this hashtag campaign saw an incredible response, with hundreds of thousands of supportive likes and comments.

The theme of acceptance helped Airbnb to present themselves as a more approachable and authentic company on social media.

6. #WhatsInYourBag: RYU

People don’t just visit social media for information and news. We also use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to add a little bit of fun into our lives! That’s why building an Instagram hashtag campaign around a giveaway or competition can be such a great idea for building engagement. Ryu did this with #WhatsInYourBag campaign.

Ryu’s campaign was a great example of a social photo contest that leveraged the trend of Instagram Stories to increase their follower count to well over 20,000.

What We Loved About It:

Hashtag campaigns with gamified elements like competitions or giveaways are a great way to build engagement for a company and encourage your customers to share user-generated content on your behalf. Ryu’s branded hashtag prompted people to share more photos in relation to the brand. This instantly expanded awareness for the company and helped to add a little fun to their identity.

7. #TrippinWithTarte: Tarte Cosmetics

It seems like everyone is investing in the power of influencer marketing lately and Tarte Cosmetics are no exception. In 2017, the company flew a gang of fitness and makeup influencers to an island off the coast of Australia and followed up with them with plenty of Instagram-able excursions like candlelit dinners, yoga, hikes and more.

The hashtag #TrippinWithTarte also encouraged followers of the makeup brand to get involved with their own outdoor experiences, sharing photos that highlighted the versatile nature of the company.

What We Loved About It:

Not only did this creative campaign give Tarte Cosmetics plenty of great content to share on social, it also presented a great opportunity to reach out to new audiences. The influencers were all picked carefully based on their follower count and industry niche, meaning that Tarte could connect with thousands of new users within a matter of weeks!

8. #OpenYourWorld: Heineken

During 2017, Heineken decided to follow the trend of using social media to shed a light on important social concepts by conducting their very own experiment. The beer company used #OpenYourWorld to see how easy it was for people with opposite social and political views to accept each other when they went through a series of team-building activities together.

When everyone at the end of the experience shared their political or social views with the other, Heineken offered them the opportunity to share a beer and discuss their differences–something they all chose to accept.

What We Loved About It:

The #OpenYourWorld hashtag campaign addressed a meaningful concept in a new and heartwarming way. The first video achieved around 3 million views within the first week of its launch and around 50,000 shares in its first month too.

Heineken shows how addressing an important idea with your social media campaign can help to get people talking about your brand and strengthen new relationships.

 SproutSocial.com is one of my go-to resources for smart writing and great ideas – consider adding them to your must-read list too.
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